This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgamca/leadershiplab
If you are a baby boomer or a Generation-Xer, then the millennial generation has probably puzzled, bewildered, and perhaps even frustrated you. Smart, self-confident and savvy, these young people question everything, demand instant gratification, and are not accustomed to being denied what they desire. If you came before them, your beliefs are likely “respect your elders” and “reward comes from effort,” so their attitudes can be both exasperating and maddening. But would it surprise you to know that your behaviour and actions drive them crazy as well? Here are four reasons millennials think boomers and Generation-Xers are nuts.
1. There’s all this talk about work-life balance, yet no one actually seems to live it.
Many organizations (headed by boomers and Gen-Xers, no less) pay lip service to the concept of balance between work and play but, as many a millennial has pointed out, companies conveniently forget about concept when the rubber hits the road. For millennials, work is play, so that means attending Lady Gaga’s concert is just as important as working a double shift to get the year-end accounting books closed. And if that means that they have to spend all night in the office to meet a deadline (after Lady G’s show, of course), then so be it. For millennials, there is no separation between work and fun, they’re simply two sides of the same coin, so everything carries equal weight. And that means playing shinny hockey on Wednesday night is right up there with getting a promotion.
2. Older employees still view technology with suspicion
“There is technology available that will improve our efficiency but you won’t let us use it.” For many reasons, several of them valid, most organizations have procedures to vet new technologies before they are implemented in workplaces. But quite frankly, millennials see the process as painfully slow. “You realize that I can build a new website on Go Daddy in one afternoon, but it takes the folks in the office three days to get me a user ID and password,” one disgusted millennial said. If your millennial is walking around with more technology in his backpack than he has at the office, then perhaps he has a legitimate point that boomers and Gen-Xers should consider.
3. You don’t ‘get’ that our goals differ from yours
A major company wondered why its efforts to recruit top-notch millennials were failing. Here was the value proposition: “You will have the opportunity to progress in a long and successful career with one of the most respected and well-known companies in the world. And every two to three years, we’ll rotate you into a new assignment.” Yeah, see the problem? “Most respected and well-known” is not relevant to a millennial because online bulletin boards and social networks offer the real skinny on a company’s reputation. And millennials aren’t thinking about a long and successful career with one organization; they expect and want to make “special appearances” at several. A new assignment once every two to three years? Are you kidding? Right or wrong, they expect to be CEO by then. “Paying your dues” is a mantra espoused by many a boomer, but the phrase simply isn’t relevant to a millennial.
4. The mistaken belief that what you see is what you get
Millennials just don’t understand why people make such a fuss about how they look, dress and behave. From their perspective, it doesn’t say anything about their abilities and performance. “Body piercings and faded jeans – how does that impact the quality of my work, particularly if I am not in a client-facing role?” one wants to know. And “Why do you think that sitting at my desk from 8 to 5 means that I’m working effectively?” another says. “I can get just as much work done from 10 to 1 at night working from my couch at home, yet my supervisor gets all twisted up if I come in 30 minutes late or leave 15 minutes early.” Wouldn’t it be wiser to make results the criteria by which performance and success are evaluated?
Today, millennials are a force to be reckoned with – they number at least seven million in the Canadian workplace, and that figure increases daily as more twentysomethings enter the world of paid employment. Like every generation before them, millennials see the world through a different value filter, and just as their behaviours make more seasoned employees shake their heads in disbelief and dismay, millennials scratch their heads in bemusement when they observe what they perceive as bone-headed moves by the veterans in their organizations.
Could there be some truth to what they see? Could the “experienced” folks learn from their observations and perspectives?
Merge Gupta-Sunderji (@mergespeaks) speaks and writes from more than 17 years of experience as a front-line leader in Corporate Canada. Her newest book is Generations Exposed: Unexpected Insights Into the People You Work With.
Globe Careers and Globe Education hosted an online chat asking four successful Gen Y entrepreneurs how to keep their generation engaged at work. You can watch it here.
Merge Gupta-Sunderji was interviewed by The Gary Doyle Show for 570 News in Kitchener/Waterloo. Listen to the interview here.